Kenya: Uncertainty Over Distribution of ARVs as USAID Bypasses Kemsa

Nairobi — A cloud of uncertainty now hangs on the sustainable supply of ARV drugs for HIV patients, after the main donor, USAID, opted for a private distributor, bypassing the government medical supplies agency, KEMSA.

USAID has picked Chemonics Limited instead of the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA), the entity listed under the law as the sole distributor of drugs in the country.

The Ministry of Health on Thursday claimed several attempts to have USAID come to the table to iron out the issues they might be having with KEMSA have been futile.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi said however there were no patients lacking drugs, despite concerns some counties were running out of stock.

Mwangangi who was appearing before National Assembly's Health Committee told members that HIV patients were currently getting a month's stock of the drugs as opposed to the normal three-month supply.

"When we look at our stocks right now, in terms of the projected consumption up to December 2021would be about 5.9 million packs and what we have is 3.9 million packs and for sure there will be a deficit and that's why it's urgent that we are able to solve this impasse," said Mwangangi.

The members of the committee were however awed why the drugs were yet to be released for distribution despite Sh850 million having been paid in taxes to ensure the shipment stuck at the port of Mombasa is cleared.

The committee also learnt there was a stock out on commodities required for early infant diagnostic, raising queries on what will happen to infants born by positive mothers.

On her part, CAS Mwangangi said there is need for Kenya to come up with a self-reliant plan on to avail the drugs, noting that donor support has been declining over the years.

She also hinted that the Ministry of Health was exploring local manufacturing of the commodities to shorten the domestic period of access.

"What is very important is to discuss the element of self-reliance when it comes to ensuring that Kenya is secure in HIV drug and commodities as mentioned we have seen a declining trend of support," she said.

The issue of the HIV drugs came into the limelight two weeks ago after patients lamented of receiving short-term doses, forcing them to make numerous visits to clinics.

At the same time it emerged that a shipment of the drugs was stuck over non-payment of taxes.

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